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It’s Not About Ebisu

Ebisu Sign Language Theatre Laboratory / Atay Citron

It’s Not About Ebisu is  a fantasy about a hero that was born in the forest and raised by animals. As a young man, he sets off on a journey that eventually brings him to the city, where he encounters alienation and violence, confronts the embodiment of evil and wins over it thanks to special powers given to him by a shaman. The piece was conceived and directed by Ebisu director, Atay Citron, in collaboration with the actors.

“It’s Not About Ebisu, which was performed twice at Performing the World 2016 in New York City, is visually stunning, emotionally engaging and simultaneously charming and challenging. It is something else as well; it’sa performance that can be experienced and understood by both the hearing and the deaf, no matter their native tongue. With It’s Not About Ebisu, the Sign Language Theatre Laboratory of the University of Haifa has literally brought into being a new performance language and a new way of creating theatre. It’s Not About Ebisu is both a beautiful work of theatre and an artistic bridge between the hearing and the deaf.”

Dan Friedman, Artistic Director, Castillo Theatre and Co-convener, Performing the World

The Sign Language Theatre Laboratory is named Ebisu after the Japanese god Ebisu who is the only deaf god in world religions and mythologies. Ebisu, also known as the Laughing God, is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune in Japanese Shinto belief. He is first and foremost god of the fishermen, but was adopted also by farmers and merchants as their god, and his portraits and figurines are prevalent in shops and businesses throughout Japan. We are inspired by the jovial and auspicious deaf god and are proud to use its name, Ebisu, for our Sign Language Theatre Lab.

“A new genre was born in the theatre, a wonderful, symbiotic and hypnotic combination of physical theatre and sign language.”

Nena Bar, Ynet, October 2016

 

Atay Citron, director of Ebisu, is associate professor at the Department of Theatre, the University of Haifa, and the Department’s former chair. He is the founding director of the Department’s full-time academic training program for medical clowns. He studied the work of clown doctors, ritual clowns and shamans around the world. He is a co-editor of Performance Studies in Motion (Bloomsbury, 2014) and served as artistic director of the Bat-Yam International Street Theatre Festival, the Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre, and the School of Visual Theatre, Jerusalem

  • Ebisu Sign Language Theatre Laboratory cast | Shoval Ben Zeev, Lee Dan, Illya Markov, Ella Okhotin, Alaa Sarsour Sayad, Nurit Shalom, Adis Tesffa Sibaht, Alon Zenou, and Golan Zino
  • Director | Atay Citron
  • Associate Director | Michal Vaknin
  • Stage Manager | Gal Belsitzman
  • Costume and Prop Design |Gal Grofit
  • Sound Design |Benya Reches
  • Lighting Design |Yoav Barel
  • Head of The Grammar of the Body Research Project |Wendy Sandler

The Ebisu Sign Language Theatre Laboratory was conceived as part of the Grammar of the Body Research Project led by Linguistics Professor Wendy Sandler at the University of Haifa and funded by the European Research Council. Th​​e ​theatre ​part of the project, launched in 2014, seeks to probe the full expressive potential of the human body through artistic performance. Eight of the nine Lab actors are Deaf, and all of them use Israeli Sign Language (ISL) on a daily basis. We use ISL combined with expressive gestures and physical theatre in order to develop a form of visual theatre that is aimed at both deaf and hearing spectators (with no interpreting during the show). Our work is based on improvisation. We play with the mimetic component of ISL, highlighting facial expressions and body language, and experimenting with gestures that are normally performed and understood by hearing and deaf people alike. The theatrical material we devise is poetic rather than literary, humorous and physical. We draw our inspiration from Deaf Culture and from the work of Twentieth Century theatre experimentalists who were searching for a theatre language that does not depend entirely on dialogue and spoken word.

“…sensual, original and exciting …To create this kind of show under difficult political and social constraints is a form of rebellion against the ruling order that invalidates the deaf body. In fact, Ebisu goes farther, truer, freer. It generates a new theatre language, and tells stories through body and movement.”

Nena Bar, March 2016

  • Photo: Yair Meyuhas
    Photo: Yair Meyuhas
  • Photo: Yair Meyuhas
    Photo: Yair Meyuhas
  • Photo: Yair Meyuhas
    Photo: Yair Meyuhas
  • Photo: Yair Meyuhas
    Photo: Yair Meyuhas
  • Photo: Yair Meyuhas
    Photo: Yair Meyuhas
  • Photo: Yair Meyuhas
    Photo: Yair Meyuhas
  • Photo: Yair Meyuhas
    Photo: Yair Meyuhas

Performance History

Israel – World premiere: February 2016, Tel Aviv; Dr. Hecht Arts Center, University of Haifa; Acco Festival Theatre; Habait Theatre, Jaffa;
U.S. tour – Theatre Two, Stony Brook University, Long Island; Performing the World International Conference, Castillo Theatre, All Stars Project, NY; National Technological Institute for the Deaf, Rochester NY